‘A society for all ages is multigenerational. It is not fragmented, with youths, adults and older persons going their separate ways. Rather, it is age-inclusive, with different generations recognizing — and acting upon — their commonality of interest.’footnote 1
Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations


The Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat (OSS), the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), the University of Waterloo and McMaster University worked together to develop this guide. For more information about the OSS and the ADO, please visit www.ontario.ca/seniors and www.ontario.ca/AccessON

A special acknowledgment goes to the researchers and contributors to the guide’s content:

  • Dr. John Lewis, School of Planning, University of Waterloo
  • Dr. Margaret Denton, Health, Aging & Society, McMaster University
  • Mark Groulx, School of Planning, University of Waterloo
  • Kate Ducak, Health, Aging & Society, McMaster University

The experience and the expertise of numerous individuals and organizations informed the development of this guide. A distinguished advisory group guided this effort from the beginning, including:

  • Elizabeth Esteves, Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat (chair)
  • Lorne Coe, Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat
  • Mihaela Dumitrascu, Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat
  • Kelsea Goss, Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat
  • Mary-Ann Lanyon, Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat
  • Madeleine Morgenstern, Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat
  • Angela Andrews, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
  • Joan Gallagher-Bell, Burlington Seniors Age-Friendly Task Force
  • Paul D’Hollander, City of London
  • Jayne Culbert, City of Mississauga
  • Virginia Stewart, Niagara Age-Friendly Community
  • Ken Doherty, City of Peterborough
  • Sonya Hardman, City of Peterborough
  • Chris Kawalec, City of Peterborough
  • Dr. Mary McGeown, Age-Friendly Thunder Bay
  • Scott Amos, City of Waterloo
  • Pat Fisher, Region of Waterloo Public Health
  • Celia Southward, City of Windsor
  • Phillipa Lue, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
  • Alfred Spencer, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
  • Diane English, Parks and Recreation Ontario
  • Darlene Watman, Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Richard Mortimer, Ontario Trillium Foundation
  • Dr. Birgit Pianosi, Ontario Interdisciplinary Council for Aging and Health
  • Siu Mee Cheng, Ontario Public Health Association
  • Andrea Bodkin, Ontario Public Health Association, Health Communities Consortium
  • Dr. Sherry Dupuis, Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program, University of Waterloo
  • Ruth Wilford, Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health, Lakehead University
  • Dr. Mary-Lou Kelley, Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health, Lakehead University
  • Dr. Bryan Smale, Canadian Index of Wellbeing
  • Jill Cadarette, Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Glenn Miller, Canadian Urban Institute
  • Dr. Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing
  • Greg Shaw, International Federation on Ageing
  • Annie Tam, International Federation on Ageing

We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of University of Waterloo School of Planning student research assistants and volunteers to group meetings and guide preparation:

  • Victor Kloeze
  • Emily Lambe
  • Bianca Popescu
  • Noah Schumate


The oldest members of the baby boomer generation in North America and Europe turned 65 in 2011. By the year 2036, our province’s older adult population will more than double to 4.1 million. This major change affects every jurisdiction in Canada and in Ontario.

Ontarians are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. As they age, older Ontarians are also seeking opportunities to stay active in their communities and in the economy. They are committed, long-term residents of their communities, contributing their time, energy and wealth of experience to local projects and organizations. All they need is the opportunity. Older adults have the same needs as people of all ages. Accessibility to health care and social services, public transportation, housing, safety and strong social networks all become more central to our lives as we age.

One in seven people in Ontario (1.5 million) has a disability. As the population ages, the imperative for accessible communities will rise. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act¸2005 (AODA), makes Ontario the first jurisdiction in the world to proactively mandate accessibility reporting. The AODA establishes the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025. This goal is to be achieved through the implementation and enforcement of accessibility standards in key areas of daily living. Five accessibility standards are now law: Customer Service, Employment, Information and Communications, Transportation and the Design of Public Spaces (Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment). Enhancements to accessibility in buildings are being developed separately through amendments to the Ontario Building Code. For more information on making Ontario accessible, visit ontario.ca/AccessON.

Individuals and organizations in communities across Ontario are working together to create age-friendly communities (AFCs). Accessible, inclusive, age-friendly social and physical environments, services and programs are making a difference in the everyday lives of older adults. Municipalities have also taken important steps. They are developing community profiles, gathering information about existing services and programs in communities, establishing advisory committees and consulting with older adults. They are also incorporating age-friendly principles into planning, setting local priorities and developing age-friendly action plans. This guide highlights several of these local campaigns and partnerships that have brought together the energies and talents of champions and local residents.

AFCs are a key component of Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors. The plan, released in January of 2013, was informed by a report on how to promote better care and health outcomes for older Ontarians entitled Living Longer, Living Well and developed by Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network hospitals and Expert Lead for Ontario’s Seniors Strategy.

Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors identifies three main goals and outlines a significant number of programs and initiatives by which Ontario intends to realize them. The action plan builds on a decade’s worth of work on behalf of Ontario seniors on three pillars:

Healthy Seniors: Ontario will help seniors find and access the health-care services they need to be healthier, stay at home longer and improve their quality of life.

Senior-Friendly Communities: Ontario will harness the potential and maximize the contributions of seniors by promoting the development of age-friendly communities that weave together services and policies to enhance seniors’ well-being and participation.

Safety and Security: Ontario will ensure that seniors have access to the programs, services and supports that help them live safely, independently and with dignity.

For more information on Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors, visit ontario.ca.

We all have a role to play

Residents, organizations, governments, the business community and the non-profit sector are all working together to create social and physical environments that allow every person to participate fully.

The aging of Ontario’s population brings with it opportunities for businesses to play a key role in delivering and creating age-friendly services and goods that boost economic prosperity for all.

The Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, local business improvement areas, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, local chambers of commerce, Parks and Recreation Ontario, the Canadian Urban Institute, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, cultural organizations and libraries are among the many leaders in creating inclusive, strong, economically vibrant Ontario communities.

Local government plays important roles in the quality of life of a community through planning, policy development and direct service delivery. A municipality can designate a business improvement area and establish a management board to promote a community’s businesses and improvements. Municipal planning and financial tools (official plans, community improvement plans, zoning bylaws) can support economic development (see Municipal Planning and Financial Tools for Economic Development Handbook).

The Places to Grow initiative is the Ontario Government’s program to plan for growth and development in a way that supports economic prosperity, protects the environment and helps communities achieve a high quality of life across the province. The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006, establishes a framework to guide government decisions and investments to create complete communities that meet people’s needs for daily living through an entire lifetime, as well as to support convenient access to public transportation and options for safe, non-motorized travel. The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, 2011, also supports a vision of communities that can accommodate the diverse needs of all residents, now and in the future (see www.placestogrow.ca).

Parks, trails and recreation settings contribute to communities’ economic and environmental sustainability by providing opportunities for citizens to enjoy recreation and maintain active, healthy lifestyles. Parks and Recreation Ontario works in partnership with many stakeholders in the areas of physical activity, sport, recreation, civic engagement, arts and culture.

The Canadian Urban Institute, a Toronto-based not-for-profit organization with national and international reach, helps improve urban environments through networking, public education, leadership development, planning and policy solutions.

The Ontario Professional Planners Institute is the recognized voice of Ontario’s planning profession. Its position paper entitled Healthy Communities and Planning for Age-Friendly Communities: A Call to Action highlights some of the key issues for Ontario’s planners and communities to discuss so that they can respond more effectively to the challenges posed by an aging population.

Older people, planners, social workers, volunteers, gerontologists, health-care practitioners, business leaders and local decision-makers are among the many individuals working together to transform communities and ensure everyone’s future is friendly, safe and supportive. This guide is one more resource to encourage and assist Ontarians to achieve that future.


  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, quoted in Scharlach, A. (2009). Creating aging friendly communities. Generations 33(2): 5–11.